Driving Demand and Loyalty in a Permission-Based World

Overcome major hotel marketing challenges to drive volume.

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April 26, 2023

Noreen Henry, Chief Revenue Officer, Sojern, HSMAI Foundation Board Member, and Kurt Weinsheimer, Chief Solutions Officer, Sojern

This is the first in a series of articles from HSMAI Americas sharing insights from partners who presented at an HSMAI Chief Marketing Officer Roundtable.

Hotel marketers face a number of challenges. Consumers want a more personalized experience, with 71% saying they expect it from companies. And the benefits are there for marketers that follow through: Companies that use personalization grow 40% faster than those that don’t. However, consumers are wary of giving up too much information, with 68% concerned about the amount of data collected. In addition to satisfying customers’ need for both personalization and privacy they must also efficiently drive direct demand, quantify the value that corporate marketing provides to individual properties, and enact a first-party data strategy to find success in a cookieless world. 

How can hotel marketers overcome these challenges to drive volume and revenue across channels at a low cost while giving potential travelers and current guests the relevant experience they want?

It all starts with permission-based personalization. 

What Do Travelers Want and Need Now?

To stay ahead of privacy regulations and give customers what they want, hotel marketers must evolve the way they identify, target, and convert key travelers. Consumers want relevant, personalized advertising but also want consent and control. Marketing that relies on third-party cookies, which is 80% of all digital advertising, provides personalization but often lacks permission and control. Now, as consumers demand more control over their information, third-party cookies are losing value for marketers: Safari and Firefox block them today and Chrome is set to disable them in late 2024. To continue to reach potential travelers with relevant, personalized messaging, hotel marketers will need to shift to newer, more relevant, and privacy-first strategies that reach and engage consumers.

How Do Brands Build Trust?

Permission-based personalization allows hotel marketers to deliver individualized messaging and experiences based on information, or first-party data, that the traveler has willingly shared. First-party permission keeps advertising open so marketers can make personal connections, even after third-party cookies go away. First-party data includes loyalty program information, booking details, and observational data about guest interactions. These insights allow hotels to combine online data from social, CRM, and the hotel website with offline data, such as front desk interactions, to engage with potential travelers on a deeper, more personalized level. Use first-party data on the guest-servicing side to deliver a memorable stay or even marketing new experiences to your past guests to build loyalty and repeat bookings. 

Hoteliers can use first-party data to enable cross-device targeting to deliver personalized experiences and create deeper connections. Think about it this way: Third-party cookies don’t allow for cross-device targeting, which means a traveler may book a hotel room in Rome on their laptop and still receive hotel ads on their mobile phone for days or weeks. Now, with first-party data and cross-device targeting, the traveler experience is no longer disjointed. Once that traveler books their room in Rome, marketers can begin to serve up much more relevant ads for activities or attractions.

By using customer data wisely and delivering the experiences they want, hotels can build relationships based on transparency and trust, which ultimately builds brand loyalty and increases the chance of repeat bookings. A recent report found that 81% of hoteliers have seen a lift in revenue since they’ve implemented a first-party data strategy. What’s more, 57% saw an increase in guest satisfaction. 

How Do You Build a Permission-Based Program?

Hotel marketers can build a successful permission-based program by taking a transparency, consent, control approach. Transparency means hoteliers clearly communicate the value the customer receives for the data exchange and how their data is used. To do so, you must have a framework for collecting and organizing customer data in a CRM or customer data platform. Consent means that customers can opt in to the hotel’s data collection strategy with a clear idea of how their data will be used and establish a baseline that ensures all customer data is being used in a consistent and uniform manner. For example, you can ask travelers who visit your website for permission to market to them via email. Control gives customers the power to choose what they do–and don’t–share. By creating a framework for what data is collected, how that data is used, and the value exchange for customers, hotel marketers can make the data ask and obtain consent. 

How Do You Turn Permission-Based Marketing into Value?

Once hotel marketers build a permission-based marketing strategy, they can use the discover, plan, book framework to transform that strategy into bookings–and long-term value.

Hoteliers can discover more about their customer base by collecting first-party data. It was found that 68% of respondents say first-party data has been effective in helping them build stronger relationships. Not only can you use first-party data to remarket to loyal customers and entice them to take a return trip, you can use your customer data to create lookalike audiences, which allows you to reach new potential travelers who might be interested in your hotel because they share similar characteristics with your existing customers. 

While collecting first-party data is a great start, you must still enrich that information with partner insights such as travel intent data, supply and inventory, and more. The same report also found that hotels who said first-party data has helped them compete with OTAs and other hotel brands were twice as likely to have worked with technology companies in planning their first-party data strategy. This highlights both the importance that first-party data–and the right partnerships–play in successful marketing campaigns. 

By combining internal information with partner data, hoteliers around the world can gain a complete view of the customer journey and segment and score potential travelers based on likelihood to book. From there, they can use those scores and enriched data to create offers to entice users to come back and book. The discover, plan, book approach allows marketers to tie their efforts to revenue, which also helps them demonstrate value at a property level. Recently, Marriott International partnered with Sojern to engage with potential travelers using traveler intent data. By marketing to travelers with the right message for where they were at in their journey, Marriott’s conversion rate increased by 40% and booking activity went up by 6%. 

At Sojern, we provide the tools and data hotel marketers need to create a personalized customer experience that captures bookings again and again. Reach out to our team of travel experts to learn how to create a permission-based strategy to build relationships with travelers in a cookieless world. 

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